I'm planning to have my players deal with a drug ring in a city with a prominent magic university. I wanted to have a drug that would make sense as a drug to be a problem in this particular city and be tempting for my players to use it, but still have potentially serious consequences.


Taking a hit as a free object interaction when you cast a spell allows you to 'upcast' spells without expending higher spell slots. As an example, this would mean if you take a single hit of Majup then cast the spell Fireball at 4th Level, you will only expend a 3rd level spell slot. If you take two hits at once, you can cast the spell at 6th level while expending a 4th level spell slot. This does not allow you to cast a spell while using a spell slot lower than the spells original level. When you take a hit of Majup, roll an addiction saving throw (Constitution) of DC 8 + (3 times the number of hits taken). On a failure, gain a stage further of addiction. When addicted, if you have not taken a hit of Majup since the previous dawn, make a withdrawal saving throw (Constitution), and consult the chart below for the result, as well as an additional effect based on your stage of addiction:

Saving Throw Result 0-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21+
Minor Addiction - You have a minor tremble in your hands You gain a point of exhaustion, but still gain all other effects from the long rest No Negative Effects Overcome your addiction Overcome your addiction Overcome your addiction
Moderate Addiction - Above, plus whenever you cast a spell that has additional effects when cast at higher levels and don't chose to take a hit, you must make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw, or you take a hit of Majup provided you have some before casting the spell You gain no benefits from this long rest, and gain a point of exhaustion You gain a point of exhaustion, but still gain all other effects from the long rest No negative effects Your Addiction becomes Minor Overcome your addiction
Major Addiction - above, plus You need to make a withdrawal saving throw every 8 hours; and the above wisdom saving throw is a DC 15 You gain no benefits from this long rest, and gain a point of exhaustion You gain no benefits from this long rest, and gain a point of exhaustion You gain a point of exhaustion, but still gain all other effects from the long rest No Negative Effects Your Addiction becomes Moderate
Crippling Addiction - Above, plus You need to make a withdrawal saving throw if you have not taken a hit in the past 4 hours, and the above wisdom saving throw is a DC 20 Your withdrawals Overwhelm you; you are at zero hit points, and need to make death saving throws You gain no benefits from this long rest, and gain a point of exhaustion You gain no benefits from this long rest, and gain a point of exhaustion You gain a point of exhaustion, but still gain all other effects from the long rest No Negative Effects

You can remove a single level of addiction with a Lesser Restoration once per day. A Greater Restoration can completely cure the addiction.

Does this appear balanced? Are the benefits worth the potential consequences? I feel the benefits might be a bit weak, is there another benefit that might make sense thematically? Is there anything else I would need to consider before putting this in the campaign?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does the War Caster feat give any bonus to the saving throw? How about the Medicine skill? The monk's "Purity of Body" feature? The paladin's "Lay on Hands" or "Divine Health" features? There are so many possibilities that need to be addressed first. Otherwise there could be a lot of ways to make the penalties go away or very low risk. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Dec 21, 2020 at 7:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not concentration, so no War Caster. it's a magical addiction so Medicine skill should not be able to solve it. . The Paladin's Divine Health would have no effect as this is not a disease. Lay on Hands would work as the same as the Lesser Restoration, lowering the addiction a single stage once per day. The Monk's Purity of Body would not work either, as this isn't a poison or disease, but an addiction. I don't think this can be treated as Poison/disease without completely removing the risks of the drug for some characters. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2020 at 17:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ If nothing else, I'd suggest defining some non-trivial price for it (maybe villains get it cheap, but street price is high), and allowing a single use to potentially apply multiple stages of addiction at once. Without multiple stages being a risk, someone with a high Con can just take enough hits to upcast a single spell at 9th level whenever they like; sure, eight hits (DC 32) means automatically failing the save against addiction, but they just have to avoid using for a day after to break the addiction automatically (they can't roll lower than a 6+) with no ill effects in the meantime. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2020 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Similarly, someone with a zero (or negative) Con mod would fail the check for a single dose (over) half the time anyway; why use it twice for a measly one level boost (with 75% chance of addiction, 25% chance of two levels of addiction) when you could use enough hits to upcast at 9th level and accrue at most one level of addiction? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2020 at 18:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might consider converting it to a "recharge spell slot" rather than a "upgrade spell slot". That would let you compare it to scroll costs for the same level - more flexible, but various discounts for the negative side effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Dec 22, 2020 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


This is deeply problematic as far as balance is concerned for high-level characters. Eventually, Greater Restoration becomes a reasonable cost, and for high-level characters, enough money to pay for at least one hit every 4 hours is still chump change. They're also more likely to be able to make their saves. On the other hand, being able to eat All The Drugs and crank up a level 3 slot to cast Fireball at level 9 is still a big deal, even without looking at things like interaction with sorceror metamagic.

Functionally, high-level characters shouldn't be getting major gains from spending money on consumables. If you price this drug to the point where its target audience (low-level spellcasters) can afford it, it'll be trivially costed for high-level characters. Balancing this is going to be difficult regardless, but at bare minimum, you have to make it into something that high-level spellcasters (even high-level characters with relatively low-level spellcasting) won't want.

So, first of all, it needs to have a pretty stark level cap. Like, the normal stuff on the streets can make a level 1 slot act like a level 2 slot, and the "really good stuff" that comes at a serious premium can up a slot as high as 3rd. Then give it some sort of a "bad trip" roll - if you roll poorly, it can mess up your spellcasting for the rest of the day until you have a chance to sleep it off. Again, different suppliers will have differing levels of quality on this one, with different degrees of risk (and they'll lie about it, too). Your higher-level characters aren't going to care all that much about cranking up a level 2 slot to level 3, and they're not going to really want to bother to shuffle around their slot use so that they won't lose much if they roll poorly. On the other hand, a first-level wizard only has two spell slots to begin with. Juicing the second of those two is still a pretty significant potential boost in time of trouble. Admittedly, letting them cast with a slot that they shouldn't even have access to yet is pretty overpowered too... you should probably make the negative side-effects that much stronger for juicing into spell slots that you don't have yet.

So.. basically, that would make this drug expensive and risky but a potential ace-in-the-hole for lower-level casters, while making it less interesting for the higher levels. It's still the sort of thing that would be difficult to balance properly, but at least it would be possible.

Further suggestion: let someone take the drug early... and then maintain it in their concentration slot until used. If they break concentration without casting, it has some appropriate negative effects, but this lets them use it as a performance-enhancing drug for tests and the like, lets them use it for duels while pretending not to, and so forth. Not a huge increase in power or versatility, but a significant upgrade in potential roleplaying situations.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This was originally intended for a one shot so I wasn't thinking about higher level abuse, i'll have to rethink it, thank you for your input! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21, 2020 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonAristotle no problem. Please remember that if you want to significantly adjust the drug and ask about balance issues with the new version, you should ask it as a separate question (and possibly link the two) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Dec 22, 2020 at 0:01

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